Becoming a Professional Genealogist: My Journey – Part 7

Posted on August 24, 2016 in Professional Genealogist
Figure 1.  The vendor table of Old Bones Genealogy, LLC at the 2013 South Carroll Business Association Community Expo in Eldersburg, Maryland.

Figure 1. The vendor table of Old Bones Genealogy, LLC at the 2013 South Carroll Business Association Community Expo in Eldersburg, Maryland.

To wrap up marketing, I need to discuss trade shows. I discovered our local trade shows as a member of the South Carroll Business Association (SCBA). The SCBA Expo was held annually in the Spring. I found the pricing reasonable and members got an early bird discount. I decided to try it out to see if it was an effective marketing strategy.

I learned about it too late for 2012 so my first show was the SCBA 2013 Expo. I planned for my banner so it would be ready in time for the show. For my first table, I stole the mantle scarf from my fireplace and purchased a large tablecloth to place under it. I’ve received so many compliments on this retro look that I now use it in all my shows. For my display, I included my business cards, brochures, sample fancy pedigree charts, sample of my work, and old photos. I added a guest sign-in sheet. To encourage people to come to my table, I developed a slide show, running it continuously on my laptop.

Well, we were in a big gym in a local high school, there was not a huge turnout and my table was next to an exit door. I had only a couple of visitors and no one signed my guestbook. Another great learning experience. Afterward, many of the vendors gave me good advice that I took to heart and used in future shows. My budget only allowed one show this year.

Figure 2.  My most recent show the SCBA 2016 Expo, held in Eldersburg, Maryland.

Figure 2. My most recent show the SCBA 2016 Expo, held in Eldersburg, Maryland.

While maintaining the basic display, over the years, I added many items suggested by my fellow vendors. The first suggestion I received and implemented was to hold a drawing. Apparently, visitors tend not to sign the guest sign-in sheet but they will fill out entries to win a prize. So now I need to decide what prize to give. I thought about gift cards to restaurants or electric gadgets; but, I finally decided upon a gift certificate for family research. I now award a gift certificate worth three (3) hours of my time to the winner. This has been very popular–this year my big fish bowl was completely filled.

Each successive year added another feature to my display.  I supplemented the display with free candy and free company pens, also very popular. I had also learned how to position my table better. It is all in who you know. In 2016 my table was against a well-lit wall and in direct view of the main entrance—right on the traffic path. I have been informed that I need to add balloons to attract visitors to the table. So far, I have held off since I think it would spoil the look, but who knows…

As to whether trade shows are an effective marketing strategy, the jury is still out. I have noticed that in this profession it can take a long time for a lead to develop into a client. I just added a client this year that attended one of my early lectures four years ago.

With this post, my marketing journey ends.  My next and final topic, technical, concludes my early trip on what I hope to be an ongoing journey.

See the earlier posts in this series:
Introduction-Becoming a Professional Genealogist: My Journey–Part 1
Education-Becoming a Professional Genealogist: My Journey–Part 2
Startup Team-Becoming a Professional Genealogist: My Journey–Part 3
Business Planning-Becoming a Professional Genealogist: My Journey–Part 4
Branding & Networking–Becoming a Professional Genealogist: My Journey–Part 5
Lecturing & Volunteering–Becoming a Professional Genealogist: My Journey–Part 6




Posted in Professional Genealogist | Leave a comment

Becoming a Professional Genealogist: My Journey – Part 6

Posted on August 16, 2016 in Professional Genealogist
Eileen Souza, Old Bones Genealogy, speaking at the March 2016 meeting of the Carroll County Genealogical Society, Westminster, Maryland. Photo courtesy of Donna Mortenson.

Eileen Souza, Old Bones Genealogy, speaking at the March 2016 meeting of the Carroll County Genealogical Society, Westminster, Maryland. Photo courtesy of Donna Mortenson.

Part 6 of my journey to become a professional genealogist expands my marketing efforts into lecturing and volunteering.

While I had to create and give presentations in my prior career, lecturing on genealogy to the general public and organizations was a very different matter. Generally, the presentations that I had previous done were mostly status reports on various projects I worked on. I knew and worked with everyone who attended and I was paid whether they liked the way I presented or not. In addition, they weren’t very long because everyone was busy and needed to move on to the next meeting.

My genealogy business mentor advised me that lecturing was one of the best ways to get known and attract new clients. My fear of public speaking was high (notice the past tense—after several years it’s much less); but this turned out to be a great learning experience.

I targeted my first presentation, as I have done with most of them, to the beginning family historians. Although I had been researching my own family for many years, I had no experience as to why others might research theirs or how to interview older relatives, since in my case they were all dead when I started. I needed to do a lot of research to flesh out my topic, Getting Started with Your Genealogy. I think the knowledge I acquired preparing this presentation and later ones, added to my knowledge and helped me become a better genealogist.

When completed, I set out to market this presentation to local branches of our county library. I was surprised at how friendly they were and at how happy they seemed to be adding me to their program schedules. My surprise came with my first live lecture at the library in my town. There was a big turnout and everyone was very interested in hearing what I had to say. There were plenty of questions and I found myself enjoying an experience that I had been dreading. To this first presentation, I have since added several other presentations, ending with my latest talk, The ABCs of DNA for Genealogy, which I introduced late last year.

In the past, shyness prevented me from being a joiner or a volunteer but I knew that I needed to get past this to help grow my business. I joined my local county genealogical society, the Carroll County Genealogical Society of Maryland and I started attending meetings. The folks I met at the meetings were great and I really enjoyed myself. After several meetings, I received a phone call from one of the board members asking if I would be Vice-President/Program Chair as this was a vacancy they wanted to fill. I tried several times to say no but I was up against a great salesman. Eventually, she wore me down and I finally agreed. I guess this was volunteering!

Initially, I resisted the ideas of both lecturing and volunteering; but now I wouldn’t have it any other way. The society that I had joined for business reasons became very important to me—much beyond my business. I want to see it grow and flourish. For my sins, I am now president and over the years have met and worked with many hard-working, dedicated and knowledgeable people. I would never have met these folks if I had not moved out of my comfort zone. It seems as if becoming your own boss is also good for personal growth.

This ends my second venture in the world of marketing. My next and final marketing topic expands my experience to trade shows.

See the earlier posts in this series:
Introduction – Becoming a Professional Genealogist: My Journey – Part 1
Education – Becoming a Professional Genealogist: My Journey – Part 2
Startup Team – Becoming a Professional Genealogist: My Journey – Part 3
Business Planning – Becoming a Professional Genealogist: My Journey – Part 4
Branding and Networking – Becoming a Professional Genealogist: My Journey – Part 5


Posted in Professional Genealogist | Leave a comment

Tuesday’s Tip – Try Browsing

Posted on August 9, 2016 in Tuesday's Tip

…the census, that is. I would like to talk about browsing online census records as an effective, although last ditch effort, to finding an ancestor. While you can browse any records, this technique works best with records like the census where you can go through families one by one. This approach can be used with any website housing census records that permits browsing page by page as an option. I used Ancestry.

In this case, I was searching the 1900 US census for my great-grandparents, Bonaventura and Maria Bianchi. I knew they came over in 1888 to locate in Northumberland County, Pennsylvania. Bonaventura died in 1906 and was buried in St. Peters Cemetery right outside Mount Carmel, PA. I was pretty sure they had to be in the 1900 US census and living in Mount Carmel, but I could not find them with any search technique I tried so I decided to browse the records.

To do this I performed a search specifically on the 1900 US census by selecting the census year I wished to search from the Records Collection box on the home page of Ancestry. When the search page displays, you can see on the right the option to Browse this collection.

The Browse window asked me to supply a state, county and township. When it came to entering the township, I had three choices: Mount Carmel, Mount Carmel Ward 01, and Mount Carmel Ward 04. Mount Carmel includes Districts 136 through 141. Mount Carmel Ward 01 includes District 135 and Mount Carmel Ward 04 includes District 138, which is already included in Mount Carmel. I felt confident that they lived in one of these three localities, but I did not have a street address so I could not narrow it down any farther. I decided to begin in chronological order with District 135.

As you can see in Figure 1, I selected the state as Pennsylvania, the county as Northumberland and started my browse by entering the township as Mount Carmel Ward 01.

Figure 1. Example of using the Browse this collection option. Source: Ancestry

Figure 1. Example of using the Browse this collection option. Source: Ancestry

I planned to start with page 1 and continue on through all the enumerations districts until I found them or reached the end. I’m not sure I would have attempted this search in a large city, such as, Philadelphia or New York City, at least, not unless I had a more precise location.

I was very lucky with this browse. The family I was searching for appeared on the first image of ED 0135, fourth family down. My great-grandfather, who was head of this family, was named Bonaventura Bianchi, with Bianchi being the surname. But the enumerator recorded the last half of his first name as the family surname and used an incorrectly spelled version of his last name as his first name so the entire family was indexed as Vantura (see Figure 2). I don’t think I would have found it any other way than by browsing.  It is a last ditch effort but can really pay off.

Figure 2 1900 U.S. census, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Mount Carmel Ward 1, Enumeration District (ED) 135, sheet 1-A, dwelling 4, family 4, Biancpi Vantura: digital image, Ancestry ( accessed 9 August 2016)

Figure 2 1900 U.S. census, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Mount Carmel Ward 1, Enumeration District (ED) 135, sheet 1-A, dwelling 4, family 4, Biancpi Vantura: digital image, Ancestry ( accessed 9 August 2016)



Posted in Tuesday's Tip | Leave a comment

Becoming a Professional Genealogist: My Journey – Part 5

Posted on August 2, 2016 in Professional Genealogist

old bones card layouts sm

Now for the big topic—MARKETING. When it came to marketing, I was completely ignorant. I was an IT Specialist in my prior profession and had taken some college courses in business, finance and accounting but not, heaven forbid, marketing or sales. I truly dreaded this part of the job. In fact, I think it was this component of being self-employed that prevented me from opening my own business sooner. Actually, as you will see, it turned out to be not as bad as I imaged.

Marketing is too encompassing for a single post so I’ve broken it up into three posts: branding and networking, lecturing and volunteering, donations and trade shows. I spread out my marketing investment over three years loosely following these topics. I’ll start this post with branding and networking.


During my years in the business world (even though it was computer systems), I learned that first-impressions are very important. I was told over and over that the business card is a prospective client’s first impression of you and that this impression will rarely change in the future. My years in my prior career told me that this was probably a reality.

Branding can include many things, logos, business cards, brochures, ads, websites, blogs, give-a-ways, etc. I decided that my first investment would be a logo and a business card. I always use local businesses, if I can. I think my graphic designer, Creative SOL, did a superb job on both the logo and the business card. The final result is the image I have included in this post. The cards are printed on the best stock with a glossy finish. I love them.

Since this depleted my first year budget, I decided to do my own website, after all, I developed Intranet systems in my old job. Sure. Why not?  I have to say the site was nice and flowed okay but let’s face it, I don’t speak marketing. I am not a copywriter. That is not my profession any more than being a graphics designer was. As soon as possible in my second year, I had my website and blog designed and developed by professionals. I used the local firm, Advantage Internet Marketing, and I have been very pleased with what they produced. Their service is great, too. I have received many compliments on it from others.

I added trifold brochures in the third year. Also, designed by Creative SOL.


Networking is complex and seems to break down into many types. Primarily, I focused on local networking, conferences and social media. For me, social media wasn’t too intimidating, after all, I did not have to meet anyone in person. Since, I was already on Facebook because of my family, I added a business page for Old Bones Genealogy. I then established profiles on Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. That has been my limit so far for social media sites. I post all my blog posts on these four social media sites. Over time, I have accrued friends on all sites.

One of the business people I met during my logo/business card project, recommended a local networking group called South Carroll Business Association (SCBA), which meets monthly, so I joined it. I also joined a small leads group named South Carroll Business Connections (SCBC) that meets weekly. Later, I added the monthly Carroll Marketing Group (CMG) to my list.

I attended a couple of the meetings of SCBA and CMG feeling like a stranger in a strange land. I wore my usual conservative dark colors and stood around not knowing anyone and too intimidated by all that was going on to initiate any conversation. Until red.

One advantage for me in joining LinkedIn is that I found an article on networking for the introvert. That is definitely me. Reading this article, I found out about the color red. There were many suggestions in this article but I liked the one about wearing bright colors, especially red to attract attention rather than fade into the background. So for the next meeting I wore a red top and jacket. It really works. Folks came over to me and said hello. I felt more at ease and today I really enjoy my time at these meetings.

You are probably wondering why, as a professional genealogist, I would join these groups since they were only local business men and women. What did I get out of it? I discovered that I learned more about marketing and made many valuable connections. And surprisingly got a few customers.

I have been l lucky in that I was able to attend a couple of genealogy conferences in my first years. In 2010, I attended the APG Roundtable, the APG PMC and the FGS Annual Conference in Knoxville, Tennessee. In 2014, I attended the National Genealogical Society (NGS) in Richmond, Virginia. I hope to attend another conference in 2017. These conferences were wonderful—I got to network with my peers and meet some of the names I had only seen on books or the Internet. Conferences are great networking opportunities if you can manage to attend.

This ends my first foray into the world of marketing.  My next topic will expand my experience, increasingly moving out of my comfort zone with lecturing and volunteering.


See the earlier posts in this series:

Introduction – Becoming a Professional Genealogist: My Journey – Part 1

Education – Becoming a Professional Genealogist: My Journey – Part 2

Startup Team – Becoming a Professional Genealogist: My Journey – Part 3

Business Planning – Becoming a Professional Genealogist: My Journey – Part 4


Posted in Professional Genealogist | Leave a comment

Tombstone Tuesday – Theobald Meisberger (1837 – 1900)

Posted on July 26, 2016 in Tombstone Tuesday

My Tombstone Tuesday for this week is the monument of my 2nd great grandfather, Theobald Casper Meisberger, in St. Edward’s Cemetery, Coal Township, Northumberland Co., Pennsylvania.

R12-L21 Theobald Meisberger on monument. Photo courtesy of John Haile

R12-L21 Theobald Meisberger on monument. Photo courtesy of John Haile

The grave is located in range 12, lot 21, grave 1 of the cemetery. He died 13 June 1900 and according to the cemetery record, he was buried 13 June 1900. The grave has a headstone that says Father.

The monument inscription reads





DEC. 25, 1837.


June 13, 1900.


62Y. 5M. 18D.


Theobald’s parents were Michel Meisberger (1812 – 1878) and Margarethe Bettinger Meisberger (1807 – 1879). Theobald married Mary Catherine Strausser (1842 – 1897) in 1860. They had nine children, including my ancestor Eva Meisberger (1861 – 1941).

Posted in Tombstone Tuesday | Leave a comment

Becoming a Professional Genealogist: My Journey – Part 4

Posted on July 16, 2016 in Professional Genealogist

iStock_Business Plan_Small

I completed most of my education, was now incorporated and, getting ready to launch my new business. It was now time to proceed to the next step – business planning. Two of the small business classes I took, “Create Your Strategic Business Plan” & “Creating & Updating a Marketing Plan”, provided me with some initial knowledge of business planning.

One of the things I had to struggle with is that since I never had my own business, I did not know what my business should do. In June 2010, I was required to prepare a business plan as a homework assignment for the ProGen Study Group. As a template, I basically followed the sections spelled out in Chapter 9 of the book Professional Genealogy edited by Elizabeth Shown Mills. Between my classes and this exercise, I understood the planning process better.

When I finally needed to develop my actual business plan for my fledgling company, I looked at many templates that I found online. I selected a template provided by the Small Business Association (SBA), but I ended up modifying it. Since I took the above classes in creating business and marketing plans, I noticed that much of the content was redundant for me. I did not need borrow any money to launch my business so the sections on finances, meant to inform prospective lenders, were not necessary in my business plan. I do an annual operating budget so I do project my revenues and expenses for the plan year.

I wanted to streamline the process as much as possible. All the marketing content was currently included in both the business and marketing plans. I took out all of the marketing sections in the business plan so they were now only located in the marketing plan. With this change my business plan remains relatively static unless I change my services, business model, or organization—all of which would be infrequent.  I update my marketing plan annually using the following outlines.

Outline for Business Plan
Confidentiality Agreement
Table of Contents
Executive Summary
Company Description
Resources, Repositories and Services
Management and Organization
Management Team
Security and Confidentiality
Industry Description and Analysis
Marketing Plan
Operating Budget
Client Agreement
The Association of Professional Genealogists Code of Ethics

Outline for Marketing Plan
Executive Summary
Business Overview
The Current Genealogy Market
Target Market
Market Segment
Competitive Edge
Marketing and Sales Strategies
Marketing Strategy
Prior Accomplishments
Sales Strategy
Marketing Research Materials
Business Card
Other Marketing Tools (Optional)

I find this approach works very well for me since it lets me focus on the marketing aspects of planning. The bottom line is that I found out that everything I do with business turns out to be marketing, even when dealing with clients, such as, managing a client’s expectations or closing a contract–that’s all marketing.

How many clients I want, what kind of income I need, do I expand or contract my market, how do I get my clients–that goes all in the marketing plan. During the year I only have to monitor the marketing plan.  If I decide to add a service, change my organization or business model, I would need to update my business plan; but I don’t see that happening for a while.

This is how I handle my planning process but there are many different ways this can be accomplished. My next topic may span multiple posts as I will be discussing what I learned about marketing a genealogy business and my marketing decisions.


See the earlier posts in this series:
Introduction – Becoming a Professional Genealogist: My Journey – Part 1
Education – Becoming a Professional Genealogist: My Journey – Part 2
Support Team – Becoming a Professional Genealogist: My Journey – Part 3

Posted in Professional Genealogist | Leave a comment

Sunday’s Obituary – Bonaventura Bianchi (1885 – 1906)

Posted on July 10, 2016 in Sundays Obituary

Recently, I sent away for a bunch of obituaries from the Mount Carmel Library in Mount Carmel, Northumberland Co., Pennsylvania. Yesterday I received my copies and they contained a surprise.

When browsing their index, I found two obituaries listed—one for Ventura Bianchi and one for Vinton Bianchi, both published the same day by different newspapers—so I ordered both. The results are an excellent example of obtaining as many documents as possible for an event and the reliability of those documents.

For years I only had the obituary from the Mount Carmel Item. With this order, I received a duplicate of that obituary and an additional obituary from the Daily News. The following is a table I created to highlight the differences between the two obituaries.

Sundays Obituary- Bonaventura Bianch sm

My great-grandfather is Bonaventura Bianchi. He was born in Italy either in 1855, 1856, 1857, 1858 or 1859. July 1855 is listed in the 1900 US census entry, and his death certificate shows 12 June 1855. His tombstone has 1859 and my great-aunt Lucy said he was born in 1858. The age on his passenger list computes to a birth year of 1856. The two obituaries give different ages: Mount Carmel Item, 1855 and Daily News, 1857. Until I find a birth record in Italy, I have been using the birth date of 12 June 1855 that is on his death certificate. This information was provided by his eldest son, Peter.

His death certificate gives his date of death as 25 December 1906 at 5:30 PM. The Daily News gives 6:00 PM as the time of death and the Mount Carmel Item states the time of death was 5:50 PM.

His death certificate states that he is buried in St. Peter’s cemetery (aka Merriam Hill cemetery). I can personally attest to this since I visited his grave and took a photo of his tombstone at St. Peter’s. The Mount Carmel Item has him correctly buried in Merriam Hill but the Daily News has him buried in St. Mary’s cemetery, an entirely different location.

His name on the death certificate is Ventura Bianchi. I have seen his given name with the variants and/or nicknames of Bonaventura, Ventura, Vinton, Walley, Bonaventure and Victor. The Daily News obituary calls him Ventura, while the Mount Carmel Item calls him Vinton.

While the Mount Carmel Item does not name his children, the Daily News does—all twelve of them. They did get my great-aunt Lucy’s name wrong calling her Percy. They do both end in “y”. one thing struck me funny—neither paper named my great-grandmother, Maria. They just referred to her as his widow.

The final discrepancy is occupation. The Daily News called him a hotel keeper, while the Mount Carmel Item called him a miner. I have other documentation showing that he was a miner. In his death certificate, his son called him a rockman (aka miner). The Daily News also said that he belonged to four Italian and Tyrolean societies.

The most exciting part of finding this second obituary is the information on the societies and occupation because they give me more clues to research. The fact that he also joined Tyrolean societies may mean that like my grandfather, Candido Furlani, Bonaventura may also be from Trentino Alto-Adige in Italy. Now Trentino province in Italy, prior to the end of WWI, this area was the southern portion of the Tyrol and part of the Austrian-Hungary Empire. This information may help to narrow down my search. I would still have to find the town or village he came from to be able to search the church records. As to the hotel keeper occupation, it is possible that when he retired from mining, he went to work in a hotel. Something else to pursue.


Posted in Sundays Obituary | Leave a comment

10 Ways to Avoid Common Genealogy Mistakes (Tuesday’s Tip)

Posted on June 28, 2016 in Tuesday's Tip

iStock_74429969_XXX smal effectsl

Genealogy is not something that can be done from start to finish in a weekend or even a year of weekends. It is, however, an enjoyable activity that is done by millions of people. While you enjoy doing your family research, I am sure you would like your family tree to be as accurate as possible. Here are 10 ways to avoid genealogy’s most common mistakes:

  1. Talk to your family. You relatives know more about your family than the Internet. Write down what they know. More information acquired before hitting the Internet increases your chances of making good selections about what you add to your tree. And while you are doing that, you are helping to preserve their knowledge.
  1. Use caution in your research. Genealogy records found online or elsewhere that are not original documents may have errors. Abstracting or transcribing old documents can introduce typos and other transcription errors. In the case of abstracting, there may be other important information on the original. Knowing whether family history books are accurate without proper citations (as footnotes or endnotes), can be difficult. It is important to try to use the original documents, if available.
  1. Unless you have a very rare surname with a unique spelling, you will need to do more research to determine if you are actually related to another person with the same name.
  1. While not impossible, it is unlikely that you are related to a Royal family since they tended to be inbred.
  1. Another popular myth has immigrants’ names being changed at Ellis Island (or earlier officials). Your ancestor may have had their name slaughtered at the port of departure where the passenger list was created or they may have decided to become Americans by changing their name themselves; but it was not changed by officials at the port of entry.
  1. Spelling was standardized in the US and UK during the 19th and 20th centuries. Yet today British English and American English still have dissimilar spelling standardizations. Do not assume because it is not spelled the way you know it that it is not your line. Confirm a fact/relationship using more than just a name.
  1. While sometimes you must guess, either keep your guesses in a separate tree and only move the fact into your real tree when it is no longer a guess or note that the fact is a guess. Otherwise, no one will have confidence in your research.
  1. Everyone can make mistakes. Periodically check your data for these common errors: parents born before their children, people living more than 125 years and a child linked to more than one set of parents. Fix all the mistakes that you find as soon as you discover them. You want to avoid inadvertently tracing entire lines of people that have no relationship to you.
  1. When using other people’s family tree data, it is safest to treat it as a clue and do further research. Even the best research may change if new data surfaces since the original data was uncovered.
  1. Lastly, there is a principle in genealogy research known as a “reasonably exhaustive search”. This means that you must keep searching for all documents that may apply to the facts you are researching. All documents are not online. While new records are added frequently, if not daily, online records are still the tip of the iceberg. You need to extend your research to libraries, societies, archives and other repositories to ensure valid results.



Posted in Tuesday's Tip | Leave a comment

Becoming a Professional Genealogist: My Journey – Part 3

Posted on June 23, 2016 in Professional Genealogist


I pursued my education plan as described in Becoming a Professional Genealogist: My Journey – Part 2, moving closer to my retirement. It was now time to proceed to the next step in launching my small business–I needed to build a support team.

But first and foremost, I needed a name for my company. I wanted a name that people would remember but not one that was too cute. I complained to my husband that I could not come up with a name for my company (I am very bad at naming things). He looked at me and said, “Old Bones”. I said, “No. It’s too cute.” Days later, it was still in my head and I realized that this was a memorable name. I checked to see what companies might already be using it and found several named Old Bones (none genealogy-related), so I added Genealogy and Old Bones Genealogy was born.

First, I selected a local accountant. I was lucky here because an accountant from an excellent firm decided to work from home at least one day a week and they lived less than a mile from my home. My small business classes helped me arrive at a preliminary decision to incorporate my company as a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC). Some of my questions for my accountant were:

1. Should I form an LLC?
2. What are the financial pros and cons of this decision?
3. If I go with an LLC, what else do I need to consider at the federal, state and county levels?
4. Would any of these considerations be the same if I did not form an LLC?

As an LLC, I found that I would have the option of filing my taxes as either a sole proprietor or a corporation. If I filed as a corporation, I would be an employee of the corporation and therefore, need to do a payroll.

I have used Quicken Deluxe for many years for my personal finances. If I needed to do a payroll, I would have to transition to and learn QuickBooks. If I selected the sole proprietor, I would just need to update my current Quicken to Quicken Home and Business, greatly reducing both my costs and learning curve. A no-brainer.

After a very productive meeting with my new accountant, I was firmer in my decision to form an LLC but I still wanted to learn about the legal implications. It was time to find a lawyer. I did not in my personal ignorance desire to incorporate online or by using any of the other “quickie” methods open to me. If you go to a company whose service is incorporating businesses, what do you think their recommendation would be?

I wanted a lawyer whose specialty was business law, primarily Maryland business law. I found one in my county, who seemed to fit the bill. That visit ended up generating a lot of documents with my signature on them. It was so scary, I almost chickened out at the last minute. I did form an LLC and I also protected my company name within Maryland. Protecting it nation-wide would have been much too expensive.

So I now had the first two members of my startup team: an accountant and a lawyer.

The final member of my startup team was unexpected. During one of my instructor appointments at NIGS, my instructor and I started chatting about my new business startup. My instructor, Sharon Murphy, mentioned that she just started a mentoring service. She planned to mentor professional genealogists who were building a new business or growing their existing company. Last year I was interviewed about my business and the second post “Entrepreneur Connection: Interview with Eileen Souza of Old Bones Genealogy – Part 2”, focused on the topic of mentoring and how it has helped me with my business. The addition of Sharon as my mentor completed my startup team.

Accountant, lawyer, mentor—great partners to support the launch of my business.

In Part 4, I will discuss my struggles with business planning.


Posted in Professional Genealogist | 3 Comments

Becoming a Professional Genealogist: My Journey – Part 2

Posted on June 14, 2016 in Genealogical Technology, Genealogy Education

iStock_000086512353_Full sm

In my prior post, “Becoming a Professional Genealogist: My Journey – Part 1”, I gave a brief overview of how I arrived at my decision to transition to a professional genealogist. Now that I decided, I had to determine what I needed to do to make that happen. My first thought was education. I knew I needed to improve my skills and to work to standards; so I began developing my education plan. I identified my strengths and weaknesses to define where I desired to focus my training.

First: Small Business Knowledge

I had worked my entire career as a salaried employee, so I knew little to nothing about running a business. I did have project management and technical skills from my current occupation but no knowledge of marketing, sales, business accounting, or any of the other roles one needs in running a small business.

I was very lucky in this area as I found that my local community college was offering small business classes in partnership with a sponsoring organization. The best news was that the classes were free. I immediately registered and completed the free core classes:

  • Launching Your New Business
  • Small Business Accounting
  • Create Your Strategic Business Plan
  • Creating & Updating a Marketing Plan

Second: Genealogy Skills and Knowledge

I identified several areas where I believed I needed to improve:

  • Maryland records
  • General genealogy knowledge
  • Specific genealogy business knowledge

Maryland Records
First of all, I was planning to run my business in Maryland. My family research was all in Pennsylvania so I knew I had a lot learn about Maryland resources and records before I could accept clients.

Since, I planned to specialize in my home county of Carroll County, Maryland and the surrounding counties: Baltimore, Frederick, and Howard. I decided that the best way to learn more about these counties and their records was to join the genealogical society in each county. The dues were not expensive and the members of these societies have a wealth of knowledge about their local records. Over the years, through these memberships, I have become well-versed in local Maryland records.

General genealogy knowledge
Next, I felt it was very important to be able to provide educational credentials on my genealogy resume, so I began investigating what education was available to me. This was back on 2008, so the choices were somewhat different than we have today.

I finally selected the National Institute of Genealogical Studies (NIGS). They offered several certificate programs which could all be done online. I elected to pursue the certificate in Genealogical Studies with a specialty in American Records. In March, 2011, I wrote a guest post for Angela McGhie’s Adventures in Genealogy Education blog called “Spotlighting the National Institute of Genealogical Studies” that delineates my experiences with NIGS. Keep in mind that both the post and my experiences are somewhat out of date since I graduated in 2013. Based on what I’ve seen; the offerings are even better than when I attended.

Specific Genealogy business knowledge
Lastly, I realized that, while the business classes I took were excellent, they were directed at the more common types of small businesses. None really gave me much knowledge on how to approach running a genealogy business.

In 2009, I discovered the ProGen Study Groups and I was able to get accepted into ProGen 4. This is really an excellent no-cost educational opportunity that focuses on the business of genealogy. The 18-month commitment to the program is well worth it. Via small study groups, we went chapter by chapter through the book Professional Genealogist edited by Elizabeth Shown Mills. There were monthly homework assignments with lots of feedback from peer reviews. I found that many of these assignments were usable as baselines when I launched my new business. I completed this program in 2011.

Third: Alternative Education

While formal classes are excellent, there are other educational opportunities that can help fill in the gaps or extend your knowledge – conferences, self-study, and institutes. I decided that I needed to add some of these options to my education plan. I was lucky to find the article, “Elizabeth Shown Mills 10-Point Blueprint” in Angela McGhie’s Adventures in Genealogy Education blog.

From her blueprint, I selected the following educational activities:

  1. To acquire knowledge of source citations, I read Chapters 1 & 2 in Mills, E. S. Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2007 (newer edition available). I also use it as a reference with its associated QuickSheet. I completed this activity in 2008. I am now using the third edition published in 2015.
  2. To acquire additional knowledge and skills in US records, I read Greenwood, Val D. Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy, 3d ed., Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2001, which I finished in December 2013.
  3. To meet and network with other professional and aspiring genealogists, I attended the 2010 APG Roundtable, the 2010 APG PMC and the 2010 FGS Annual Conference in Knoxville, Tennessee on August 16-21, 2010. I loved this conference and all the people I met were gracious, kind and helpful to a newbie like me.
  4. To polish my skill set, I attended an institute. Since I live in the Baltimore-Washington area, I decided that the National Institute of Genealogical Research (NIGR) was my best option since it would teach me the ins and outs of using NARA. I completed this institute in July 2012. This institute is now named the Genealogical Institute on Federal Records (Gen-Fed)

Again, this was my journey. There are many old and new opportunities to improve your knowledge and skills today. In my next post, I plan to discuss how I used professional and support services when I launched my new business.


Posted in Genealogical Technology, Genealogy Education | Leave a comment